Looking after yourself is tricky. Looking after yourself and someone else? Now that’s even harder. It can be difficult to know what to focus on when you’re taking care of your needs on top of a loved one’s. That never-ending ‘To Do’ list seems insurmountable. It’s not though, I swear it.
In the midst of all the chores and tasks and fires to put out, keep some of these little tips in mind. You’re not a machine, and you won’t able to do everything, so take it easy on yourself. You’ve got this.
Tip one: Plan out your ‘working’ day
Looking after a loved one isn’t your typical nine-to-five routine. Maybe your baby needs breastfeeding at midnight. Maybe your elderly parent needs settling down to bed at ten. Perhaps your toddler wakes up at five in the morning every day. It’s easy to feel like these needs are all-consuming; that you can’t do anything for yourself in case you need to tend to your loved one’s call. You deserve to schedule some time in for yourself, too. Baby needs breastfeeding at twelve? Carve out some time for a bath at eleven. Elderly dad needs settling at ten? Netflix calls from eight until then! You can’t be on alert all hours of the day – it’s not fair on you, and you won’t be able to take care of your loved one properly, either. Allow yourself to take a break!
Tip two: Set boundaries
This tip applies more to taking care of loved ones who are able to understand bargaining and compromise, but it’s worth discussing with your loved one either way. Your loved one can’t expect you to be at their beck and call 24/7. You also can’t expect them not to need you when they can’t help it. If you need to help an older person around the house at night, see if they’re able to get themselves awake and dressed in the morning, or vice versa. This will allow you a little more time for yourself, and your loved one a little more independence whilst still feeling that they have you when they need you. If you’re looking after an older child, agree on a couple of hours in the day when you can do your own thing, and they can do theirs. Obviously, if they need you, your loved one can give you a shout, but this way, neither of you will feel suffocated by the other.
Tip three: Simplify things as much as you can
Look, you don’t need to be super-mum, or super-daughter, or super-anything. You don’t need to pull out all of the stops to be a fantastic, dedicated, caring person. Don’t put any pressure on doing anything above the norm, and take shortcuts when you can. There’s nothing wrong with buying homemade pasta sauce instead of making it yourself. It’s okay to not vacuum the floor for a while – it’s not like anyone really notices, anyways. Why not look into buying wrinkle-free clothing for you and your loved one to cut down on your ironing? You’re already looking after two people – you don’t need to make this any harder for yourself. It’s so commendable that you’re even doing this in the first place. You’re brilliant, and you’ve come this far. You’ll be fine.